Alabama is historically one of the largest processors of oysters in the country. But over the past decade, things have shifted slightly.
Yes, we still harvest fresh Gulf oysters using the traditional methods. (To learn a bit more about that, check out this video from Outdoor Alabama.) But more and more Alabamians are trying their hand (and succeeding wildly) at a more modern method: oyster farming.
If you have yet to try an Alabama farm-raised oyster, you’re in for a real treat. With over a dozen oyster farms now in operation on our Gulf Coast and more in the works, there’s a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavor profiles—each one uniquely delicious and a welcome complement to the wild-caught oysters you’re used to.
Oyster farming is catching on here in Alabama, and thanks to the new Alabama Oyster Aquaculture website—paid for with a grant from NOAA Fisheries through the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission—you can explore and see if you might want to join this growing industry.
“Our goal was to provide a better way to communicate with people that are either in or interested in the oyster farming industry here in Alabama,” said Rusty Grice, Oyster Aquaculture Business Specialist with Auburn University’s Marine Extension & Research Center. “Starting and operating any business is very challenging and we want everyone to have access to the resources that will give them the best chance for success.”
Created and launched with help from the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission (ASMC), this website is a thorough resource for anyone looking to start their own oyster farm, or simply learn more about the industry and the process. Resources include links to necessary paperwork, descriptions of farming techniques, suggestions for site selection, maps of existing sites, assistance with branding and marketing, spreadsheets for cost estimates, templates for business plans, contact information for relevant sources, and much more.
Bear in mind, though—oyster farming is hard work! But like anything worth doing, there are plenty of rewards to reap.
“I am very pleased that the new Alabama Oyster Aquaculture site has been developed,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and Program Administrator for the ASMC. “This will be a great tool for prospective oyster farmers as well as current farms in the business. The Marine Resources Division, Auburn University Shellfish Lab, and many other state agencies contributed to make this website extremely useful.”
Whether you’re interested in oyster farming as a new career or a serious hobby, it’s not the sort of thing you want to dive into blindly. And now, thanks to this new website, you don’t have to.
And if farming your own oysters just isn’t in the cards, check out the list of operating oyster farms in Alabama and ask for Alabama farm-raised oysters at your local seafood spot!